SANTA CLARA, Calif. — There's no question the San Francisco 49ers are a better team with defensive lineman Justin Smith and outside linebacker Aldon Smith on the field, especially at the same time.
Yet, less playing time for the Smiths this season, as well as other pass-rushers, just might yield more dividends for the 49ers over the course of a long season.
Justin Smith and Aldon Smith were at less than full strength late in the regular season and through the postseason as a result of serious injuries. Added down time has the potential to limit their exposure to injury and keep them fresher for the playoffs.
Hence, the 49ers signed defensive lineman Glenn Dorsey — he was the fifth overall pick by the Kansas City Chiefs in the 2008 NFL draft — and drafted linemen Tank Carradine, Corey Lemonier and Quinton Dial in April.
Veteran defensive tackle Ray McDonald believes the 49ers might be as deep on the defensive line as at any point during his seven seasons.
That should allow others to "take a load off me and Justin," not to mention Aldon Smith, who spends most of his time rushing the passer.
McDonald said the plan calls for him and other starters to play fewer snaps this season, and he doesn't take that as an affront.
"If the young guys can go in there and there's not a drop-off, then I'm all for it."
The maturation of third-year nose tackle Ian Williams gives the 49ers even more reason for optimism that they are in position to overcome the loss of linemen Isaac Sopoaga and Ricky Jean Francois to free agency.
"Nothing against Ike or Ricky, but we feel it's an upgrade," McDonald said of Williams.
AN INJURY TO No. 1 wide receiver Michael Crabtree created an opportunity for another receiver on the roster to climb the ranks and get more playing time.
A week into training camp, offensive coordinator Greg Roman still is waiting for someone to assert himself.
"Everybody knows there's an opportunity," Roman said. "I don't know that anybody has really pulled himself from the pack just yet."
Anquan Boldin is assured one starting spot. The other is up for grabs as long as Crabtree and Mario Manningham — recovering from a knee injury — aren't healthy enough to play.
Quinton Patton, Chad Hall, Marlon Moore, Kyle Williams, Chuck Jacobs, Ricardo Lockette and A.J. Jenkins are among the hopefuls.
"It's a good competition, and it's exciting to watch," Roman said.
ANOTHER NAME ABOUT to enter the equation at receiver is veteran Laurent Robinson. A Baltimore Sun report says Robinson will work out for the 49ers today.
Robinson is a six-year veteran, with 167 receptions for 2,110 yards and 15 touchdowns. He appeared in seven games for the Jaguars last season.
ROOKIE PATTON ISN'T permitted to catch a football right now because of an injured finger on his left hand. That hasn't prevented him from doing everything else in practice, including running routes.
Roman offers a simple message for Patton about what to do when a pass is thrown his way: "Just stay away from it. Catch it with your eyes."
Patton still sneaks in the occasional one-handed catch. Roman said he can't recall an injured receiver being as involved in practice as Patton has been of late.
RECEIVERS JENKINS, Williams and Kassim Osgood, all of whom are battling leg injuries, did not practice. Center Jonathan Goodwin was not at practice for a second straight day, although he was spotted at the facility. His health status is unknown.
Cornerback Chris Culliver and offensive tackle Carter Bykowski suffered injuries in practice and missed some time.
CORNERBACK NNAMDI ASOMUGHA turned in one of the day's more impressive plays by breaking up a Colin Kaepernick pass and then catching the ball before it hit the ground for an interception.
Culliver one-upped Asomugha by stepping in front of a pass for Moore and intercepting backup quarterback Scott Tolzien.
CORNERBACK TARELL BROWN hired longtime agent Joel Segal, according to Sports Business Journal. Brown fired his old agent, Brian Overstreet, last week after he learned that an oversight by Overstreet cost Brown $2 million for failing to attend offseason workouts.